By Scott E. Briggs
From its humble “corporate offices” in Norwich, the Center for Financial Training Atlantic States (CFT) has built a college-like atmosphere with its ever-popular online courses. Currently, over 1,000 students are actively completing courses and pursuing CFT diplomas and certificates via the Internet. And, thanks to transfer credit recommendations approved by the American Council on Education (ACE), many of these students will enjoy a head start as they go on to pursue degrees at various colleges and universities. What gives these CFT online courses a college-like feel is that the students in a typical class will come from many different states across the country. “There are 20 other CFT companies located throughout the United States, and many of them enroll their students in online courses offered by CFT Atlantic States,” explains Michael Meakem, president of CFT Atlantic States. “We spent a lot of time and money building the infrastructure for a distance learning program, so rather than do the same, the other CFTs have decided to utilize our online courses.”
This pooling of students has created a very diverse student body for CFT. For example, the popular Principles of Banking course is typically the first course a banker takes when pursuing a CFT diploma or certificate. Online students are surprised to find that their fellow classmates work for banks located thousands of miles away. This diversity has certainly enhanced the learning process, bringing together bankers with various backgrounds and unique ideas regarding the banking industry. As an online instructor, I have seen the intense student interaction first hand. It’s been rewarding to see how much the students learn from each other in this environment. You may not think so, but a banking career in Connecticut can be quite different than a banking career in Tennessee. These differences have included policies regarding employee uniforms and the serving of refreshments in the lobby (topics covered in the Services Marketing course I teach online).
A recent development has ensured that CFT’s online student body will become even more diverse and continue to grow. The America’s Community Bankers association (ACB) and CFT formed a strategic alliance in September 2006, and the ACB has begun offering CFT’s distance learning courses to their membership as part of their continuing education curriculum. The deciding factors behind ACB’s decision included the added value that ACE college credit transfer recommendations bring to 17 of CFT’s three-credit, college-level courses and the convenience that online courses provide to ACB’s membership. “These courses will be cost-effective for our banks because attendees can participate from home or office without travel costs or time out of the office,” said Diane Casey-Landry, president and CEO of ACB. “ACB will continue to offer its own outstanding curriculum of workshops, schools and conferences for bankers.”
Meakem adds, “The ACB partnership is exciting news. From a marketing standpoint, their endorsement brings a significant level of exposure and credibility to our distance learning program. Our goal is to reach bankers from remote areas of the country who do not have access to live classroom banking courses for their continuing education.”
Scott E. Briggs is senior vice president of the Center for Financial Training Atlantic States. CFT Atlantic States is a nonprofit educational organization serving the financial services industry from its offices in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey. For more information, please visit the company’s Web site at www.cftatlantic.org.